Do You Know These Carpentry-Related Words?


By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: John Howard/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Do you know the difference between sapwood, greenwood and softwood? Know what a finial is and where you might find one? Think you can rip, turn and crosscut wood with the best of them? Take our quiz to see how many of these carpentry-related terms you can recognize?

Like any of the building trades, carpentry has its very own lingo, perfected and shaped over the years by homebuilders, handymen, woodworkers and master craftsmen. This language includes units of measurement, like pitch or board feet, terms of technique, phrases related to materials and methods, and of course, the names of all the various tools and equipment needed to get the job done.

While you might be good with your hands or proud of your ability to build fine furniture, fix a stuck door or whittle eye-catching figures, even the most talented carpenters might not recognize every term used in this field. It takes not only hands-on experience and skills, but also time spent on jobsites, workshops and woodshops, building everything from a chair or table to an entire house from start to finish.

Think you've got a way with the words of the carpentry profession? Take our quiz to prove it!

If you're making a miter cut, it means you're ...

Miter cuts are cuts made on an angle to fit two pieces of wood together in what is known as a miter joint. This is similar to but different from a bevel, which is simply an angled cut along the edge or end of a piece of wood.


Which of these is a true hardwood?

When it comes to hardwoods and softwoods, forget about how hard or soft the wood actually is. In the carpentry world, hardwoods are simply woods -- like walnut or oak -- that come from broadleaf trees. Softwoods are those that come from evergreens, like pine, fir, cedar or spruce.


Which of these is a football-shaped wedge used to join wood?

A biscuit is a small, elongated section of wood that is slid into an opening between two pieces of wood to join them together. To cut these openings -- or slots -- you need a biscuit joiner.


If you're ripping wood, you're cutting it ...

Ripping wood means to cut it parallel to the wood grain. The opposite is crosscutting, which involves cutting the wood against, or perpendicular to the grain.


What name is given to a beam installed above windows, doors and similar openings?

Headers are beams installed above windows, doors or similar openings. Placed perpendicular to the studs, they serve as part of a building's structural system.


These vertical components divide glass windows into panes.

Mullions are any vertical framing pieces that divide a window into panes. This term is also used to describe similar vertical sections that divide the panels on cabinet fronts or doors.


Which of these is a subfloor anchored to?

Subfloor, or decking, is sheet lumber used to form the structural surface of the floor. It's fastened to the floor joists, and hardwood, carpet or other floor coverings are placed over top.


When you are installing a screw so the head sits flush with the surrounding surface, you are ...

Countersinking results in a screw whose head sits flush with the surrounding wood. This can be achieved by creating a conical hole in the wood that matches the shape of the head of a flathead screw.


What is a dovetail?

Carpenters use dovetails to join two pieces of wood at a right angle. This type of joint requires a special jig and router to create interlocking fingers in the wood.


These support members carry the weight of the floor and ceiling.

Joists are horizontal framing members that form part of the structure of a home or building. Installed parallel to one another, they carry the load of the ceiling and floor.


Which of these terms is used to describe a very thin layer of wood?

Veneers are very thin layers of wood used in carpentry. They can be adhered to sheet wood to create more affordable furniture, cabinets and wood flooring.


Which of these joint types is most common on wood floor?

Wood floor planks typically have a wooden tongue protruding from one side, which is designed to fit into a recessed groove cut into the adjacent plank. These tongue and groove joints help to create a stable and secure installation.


What do you call a slot or trench cut into the face of a piece of wood?

A dado is a rectangular groove or slot cut along the entire width of a piece of lumber. It can be used in joining one piece of wood to another, or may simply be used as a decorative feature.


How do you measure the texture of sandpaper?

The texture of sandpaper is measured by grit. Lower grits mean rougher textures, while higher grits mean finer textures, and are generally used for finish work.


Which unit is used to measure loads of lumber?

Lumber is sold by the board foot. One board foot is equal to a unit of lumber measuring 1 inch by 12 inches by 12 inches.


What would you use a planer to modify?

A planer is a must-have tool for any carpenter. By feeding a sheet of wood into the planer, you can modify its thickness or smooth out the surface.


Which of these would you be most likely to make with a lathe?

A lathe is a carpentry tool used to turn wood as it is shaped or carved. It's the perfect tool for making chair or table legs, or even something small like a fine wooden pen.


What would you be most likely to install on a soffit?

Soffits and fascias form the eaves of a home, below the roof line. They are an ideal spot for installing gutters and some types of attic vents.


Which of these is a component installed over a butt joint to unite two pieces of wood?

Carpenters learn how to make all kinds of fancy joints to join two pieces of wood, but sometimes the simplest option in the best option. For example, a fishplate is a piece of metal layered over a butt joint to easily fasten two pieces of lumber together.


Which of these would you use a paddle bit for?

A paddle bit is a specialty bit that can be used to drill holes in a piece of wood. Generally these bits are used for smaller holes, while a hole saw is used to cut larger circles.


What is the name of the vertical pieces of lumber used to frame walls?

The walls inside of the typical home are framing using studs. Typically built from 2x4 or 2x6 sections of lumber, they can also be made from light-gauge steel.


Where might you find a finial?

A finial is the carved element that sits atop the newel post on a staircase. If you've ever seen "It's a Wonderful Life," the finial is the loose wooden ball that James Stewart's character accidentally pulled loose each time he headed up the stairs.


Which of these gives you the angle of the roof?

Most roofs are angled in some way to allow for proper drainage. The exact angle, known as pitch, is simply a function of rise over run, measured in inches per foot.


What do you call wooden panels installed on the lower half of interior walls?

Wainscot is a decorative element used in many high-end homes. These wooden panels are typically installed on the lower half of a wall, and are topped by chair rail or another form of trim to serve as a transition.


If something is perfectly perpendicular to the floor, a carpenter would describe it as ...

Carpenters know that items installed properly will look better and last longer than sloppier installations. While items parallel to the floor are seen as level, something perpendicular to the floor must be plumb.


Which of these materials typically requires a floating installation technique?

There's a reason many DIY's turn to laminate flooring. Because it uses a floating installation -- that means it isn't typically glued or nailed to the subfloor, it takes less skill than many other floor finishes.


Quarter round is a type of ...

From baseboard to crown, molding comes in countless varieties to add visual interest and flair to a room. Quarter round is one such variety, and is so named because it resembles a quarter of a circle when viewed in profile.


What does O.C. mean to a carpenter?

Most carpentry plans include the abbreviation O.C., when showing measurements. This means measurements should be taken from the center of one structure to the center of the adjacent one, rather than from the face of either.


What name is given to the hinge recesses in a door frame?

Old-school carpenters used a hand chisel to carve out pockets, known as mortises, for hinges and other door hardware. The term is also used for cavities used to join wood in a mortise and tenon technique.


When you see the term "rough opening" for a door, it means you should ...

When installing a door or window, carpenters start by framing a rough opening. Generally a few inches larger than the door or window itself, the rough opening still requires careful preparation and measuring,


What name refers to the structural panels used on exterior walls?

Exterior walls are formed by nailing sheets of plywood or other sheet wood over studs and other framing members. These sheets of wood are known as sheathing, and serve as part of the building's structural support.


Which of these is a thin strip of wood used to reinforce a joint?

Many old-school shutters are built in a board and batten style, with the thinner strips of wood serving as the battens. This term also describes any thin strips of wood used to strength a joint.


The soft outer layers of wood on a tree are known as ...

Carpenters know that the color, texture and workability of wood changes depending on where on the tree it comes from. The wood near the core of the log is heartwood, and is darker and harder than the outer layers, which are known as sapwood.


When it comes to nails, what is a penny?

In the old days, nails were priced per hundred units. Today, they are sold in many different sizes and quantities, but carpenters know that the term penny represents the length of the nail.


What is green wood?

Green wood is wood that has not been properly dried. It has more moisture than most lumber, but some carpenters like it because it's easier to shape than seasoned lumber.


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